Module 6: Let’s Search the Irish Church Records

In this module we continue with our Irish record search strategy by examining the Irish RC Church records – looking for further evidence of the origins of Patrick Dolphin and his family family.


Table of Contents for this module:

  • Introduction.
  • Before searching the Irish RC Church Records – Let’s Review our information.
  • Let’s review our Irish Record Search strategy.
  • Browsing and searching the Irish Roman Catholic (RC) Church Records.
  • Speed up your search of the Irish RC Church Records – Use Rootsireland.ie
  • Summary of findings.
  • Conclusion.
  • Try for Yourself.
  • What’s Next?

Introduction.

In the last module:

  • We discovered that the townland of “Ballydavid” does exist – and included all information related to this townland in our “Land Division Research Worksheet”.
  • We started our search of the Irish records with the 1901 Irish Census Records – and found evidence of a Dolphin family in the townland in 1901. We summarised our discoveries in our “Discovery Question and Answer Worksheet”.
  • We then continued our search of the Irish records – going further back in time to search the Irish Civil Records to try and put together evidence linking our Patrick Dolphin with the Dolphin family in Ballydavid in 1901. As before, we summarised our discoveries in our “Discovery Question and Answer Worksheet”.

In this module we will :

  • Search the Irish Roman Catholic Church records for Patrick Dolphin’s baptism from about 1855.
  • Introduce you to a service that we use to speed up our search of the Irish church records.
  • Record what we discover and then decide on our strategy for continuing to search the Irish records.
  • Finally, we will encourage you to replicate our findings using the same approach and the same Irish record sets.

Before searching the Irish RC Church Records – Review the information we have gathered so far.

Let’s remind ourselves of the key information we have already gathered for Patrick Dolphin and family. The information is summarised in the following two worksheets:

  • The “Discovery Question and Answer Worksheet” – from Module 5.
  • The “Land Division Research Worksheet” we compiled for Ballydavid townland – from Module 3.

We will use this information throughout this module – updating the “Discovery Question and Answer Worksheet” at the end with all new information discovered.

Here is each worksheet in turn:


Our “Discovery questions” and answers so far.

Our initial discovery questions are shown below in black in column 1. All additional and gathered information is shown in red:

Discovery QuestionAnswer/Notes
Where was Patrick Dolphin born in Galway??
Is Ballydavid in County Galway?Yes. Ballydavid is in:
Civil Parish: Kilcooly
SRD: Loughrea
RD: Bullaun
DED:Kilmeen
Near Market Town: Loughrea
RC Church Parish: Leitrim and Kilcooly

RC Church Dioceses: Clonfert.

Source: All sources shown in “Land Division Research Worksheet”
Was there a Dolphin family living there in 1855??
What was Patrick Dolphin’s first wife’s name?Looks like she was Mary Costillo. Father was Michael Costillo and she was born around 1857.

Source: Irish Civil Marriage Record.
Where was she from?Loughrea, County Galway.

Source: Irish Civil Marriage Record.
When and where did they marry?Married in the RC chapel of Loughrea, County Galway. January 18, 1881.

Source: Irish Civil Marriage Record.
Where and when was Michael Dolphin junior born?Michael Dolphin was born in Loughrea, County Galway on May 3rd, 1881. It looks as if he was born less than four months after his parents marriage.

Source: Irish Civil Birth Record.
When did Patrick’s first wife die?We searched the Civil Death records for the period 1881 to 1895 but did not discover any relevant records.
Other discoveries:Found Dolphin family living in Ballydavid in 1901 census – head of family (Martin Dolphin) appears to be the brother of our Patrick Dolphin as they were both living in Ballydavid when married and share the same fathers name.
Case-Study Discovery Questions and Answers Worksheet.

The Land Division Research Worksheet we compiled for Ballydavid townland.

The Land Division-related information for Ballydavid townland is in the “Land Division Research Worksheet” we previously compiled – see below. The Ballydavid-related RC Church Parish and Dioceses names will be important as we search the Irish Roman Catholic Church records:

Land Division TypeNameWhere land division type is used.Notes
TownlandBallydavidAll civil, land, census and some church records.Information we started with
CountyGalwayAll civil, land, census and church records.Information we started with
Civil ParishKilcoolyAll civil and land records.Obtained from Johngrenham.com
RC Church ParishLeitrim and KilcoolyAll church records – Baptisms, Marriages and Burials/Deaths.Obtained from SWilson.info
RC Church DiocesesClonfertAll church records – Baptisms, Marriages and Burials/Deaths.Obtained from SWilson.info
Superintendent Registrar’s District (SRD). Same boundaries as earlier Poor Law union (PLU).LoughreaCivil vital records – Births, Marriages and Deaths.Obtained from Johngrenham.com
Registrar’s District (RD) Subdivision of SRDs.BullaunCivil vital records – Births, Marriages and Deaths.Obtained from Johngrenham.com
District Electoral Division (DED – sometimes just ED).KilmeenCensus records.Obtained from townlands.ie
Local Market TownLoughreaNone – but useful to get your bearings for a townland.Obtained from SWilson.info
Land Division Research Worksheet.

Let’s Review Our Irish Record Search strategy.

Let’s now review the results of our Irish record search strategy:

  • We started with the 1901 Irish census records looking for evidence of Dolphin families in a place called Ballydavid in County Galway – starting with the Ballydavid located in the Civil Parish of Kilcooly.
  • The next part of the plan was that if we found evidence that Patrick Dolphin’s family/relatives are in the 1901 census in the area, we would then figure out if there is any tie between those Dolphins and our Patrick Dolphin by working our way back in time through the Irish Civil, church and land record sets to help answer our discovery questions.
  • If we found no evidence, then we would need to adopt a different record search strategy. However, the benefit of the approach I outline above is that it can be carried out fairly quickly and then either used or discarded.

Outcome so far: We discovered relevant information for Patrick Dolphin and his family from both the census and civil records. The next step is to try and answer the following discovery question throughout the rest of this module:

Where was Patrick Dolphin born in Galway?

Let’s now proceed with a search of the Irish Roman Catholic Church records for evidence of Patrick Dolphin’s baptism/birth – and maybe pick up some related interesting information along the way.


Browsing and Searching the Irish Roman Catholic (RC) Church Records.

Let’s search for a potential birth date for Patrick Dolphin who we know was born about 1855. Given that the Irish Civil records for births started in 1864, we will have to rely on the Roman Catholic church records for this information.

We know that Patrick Dolphin was born about 1855 in County Galway – probably in the townland of Ballydavid (Leitrim RC Parish, Galway) – to Michael and Margaret Dolphin.

Do This BEFORE starting your search of the RC Church Records.

BEFORE we search for a baptismal record for Patrick Dolphin (born about 1855), it is ESSENTIAL to check if church records actually exist for that time in the RC parish of “Leitrim and Kilcooly”, County Galway for that time.

I showed you how to do this back in Module 4: “Irish Record Sets – What’s Available and Where to find them”. We will now use that same approach now to discover if there is a baptismal record available for Patrick Dolphin – and where to find it.

STEP 1: Go to the “Church Record by County Page” on johngrenham.com

Use this Link: https://johngrenham.com/browse/county_church.php? and you will see the following screen (click the graphic to enlarge if you wish). I have highlighted relevant fields and areas in red:

Choose Galway from the drop-down menu and are we are presented with the following screen. This shows us the various church record sets available to search for County Galway:

Choose the Roman Catholic church records and we see the following screen. This shows the RC church records – listed alphabetically by parish.

We know that we are looking for “Leitrim and Kilcooly” RC parish, so we scroll further down the page alphabetically until we come to “Leitrim” (sometimes the RC Parish name is abbreviated to the first word if that word accurately names the parish in question). So, we see the following three rows for “Leitrim” parish:

I have outlined the relevant information we are looking for in red above. Remember, I went through this information in detail back in Module 4 – so go back there if you need more detailed instruction at this time.

We see that there are 3 rows for Leitrim RC parish, County Galway – each row differing depending on the record location you are examining. Let’s go through each in turn:

  1. Tells us that Roman Catholic church baptism records ARE available for this range of years at the National Library of Ireland (original records) and Ancestry.com/Findmypast.com. The probable year of 1855 for Patrick Dolphin’s baptism is covered (see Sept 30 1850 – Dec 17 1880).
  2. Tells us that Roman Catholic church baptism records ARE available for this range of years at the East Galway Family History Society (EGFHS) who keep their transcriptions and the original records online at the paid site rootsireland.ie. The probable year of 1855 for Patrick Dolphin’s baptism is covered (see 1815 – 1908).
  3. Tells us that Roman Catholic church baptism records ARE available for this range of years at Familysearch.org – Church of the Latter Day Saints (transcriptions only). The probable year of 1855 for Patrick Dolphin’s baptism is covered (see Sept 30 1850 – Dec 17 1880).

In summary, we now know that the baptismal record for Patrick Dolphin appears to be available – but where should we look? Well, when I started this course I mentioned that we would stay away from the larger ancestry sites (ancestry.com, myheritage.com, findmypast.com, familysearch.org) and concentrate instead on the original Irish record repositories.

So, let’s reference the row I have labelled “1” above and go to the National Library of Ireland (NLI) where most of the original surviving RC church records up to 1922 can be accessed at https://registers.nli.ie/

When we go to that link we are presented with the following screen:

Next, enter the name of the Roman Catholic parish we wish to search/browse – “Leitrim” – and that gives us two possible Irish Parishes of that name – one in the Dioceses of Clonfert and the other in the Dioceses of Dromore. From our “Land Division Research Worksheet” we know that our Leitrim RC parish is in the dioceses of Clonfert – so that is the one we choose:

Choosing “Leitrim RC parish (dioceses of Clonfert)” presents the following available baptism, marriage and death records for that parish . You can see that there are several microfilm manuscripts to browse – the available ones are shown along with the dates they cover on the bottom left of your screen:

Scroll further down the page and we find the parish baptisms covering the year 1855 – the likely year that Patrick Dolphin was born:

In order to find the record we are looking for – we need to slowly browse all baptisms in the parish for 1855 (and probably a year either side – 1854 and 1856), hoping that we will come across one for Patrick Dolphin. So, put aside a few hours, start squinting, trying to read bad handwriting that is sometimes in Latin – see how you get on! This is probably the most frustrating part of accessing Roman Catholic church records in Ireland.

As an example, the following is a page of the original parish baptism register for a part of 1854:

If only there were a way to search the church records using our available information – and then zoom in to the likely original record? Well, in truth, some of the larger ancestry sites offer quite a useful search solution for Irish search records – with Familysearch.org having the advantage of being free.

However, as I mentioned we are going to continue our search of the RC Church records OUTSIDE the large ancestry sites – and use a paid (but reasonably-priced) service to speed up our search of the Irish RC records. Why? Not only will it probably pinpoint Patrick Dolphin’s baptismal record around 1855 – but it will also offer further information on likely siblings, sponsors/witnesses, probably neighbours, relations and more.

The service we will look at now is provided by a local County Galway genealogical society – but all of the online records are available to search using a consolidated Irish records service (covering most of the counties of Ireland) located at rootsireland.ie.

And that is where we will go next!


Speed up your search of the Irish RC Church Records – Use Rootsireland.ie

In this section, I recommend a tool that costs a small amount of money (I receive no benefit for advertising them) but will save you hours and often throw up other interesting bits of information.

We will use a record search service called “Rootsireland.ie” to search for our Patrick Dolphin in the Irish church records.


Step 1: Go to the Rootsireland homepage, sign up and sign in.

We start by going to https://www.rootsireland.ie where we find the following cover page:

As I mentioned, it is a paid service (one that supports local Irish genealogy societies) – and here is the pricing page. I think that signing up for a day is more than enough to complete this course and decide if RootsIreland is for you (and do check the current price on the rootsireland website yourself as the amounts shown below are likely to change):


Step 2: Navigate to the County Record Page of your choice.

Once you have signed up to Rootsireland and signed in, you will see an option to “Search by county”. Note: A mistake I often see people making is using rootsireland at a generic high level. If you know which county and area you are searching – then go there directly in the menu (as shown below).

Remember that we are interested in the section of Rootsireland maintained by the “East Galway Family History Society” – so choose “Co. Galway (East)” from the pull-down menu:

We now see the home page for County Galway (East) shown below:


Step 3: Search for a specific record in the selected county.

Next, we go straight to our search. We are searching for a “Patrick Dolphin” who was born about 1855 (the default settings will return records plus/minus 5 years). This presents the following 7 possible baptismal/birth records and 2 Griffith’s Valuation land records:

Click on the Birth/Baptismal results and we get a more detailed search page – where we can enter Patrick’s father’s name as Michael (which we know to be true):

Click search and the following results are returned – both of which are church baptisms:

I went through each of the above entries and both have identical information as follows:

This looks very promising! We can see the correct Leitrim RC Parish, father’s name as Michael and mother’s name as Margaret – all of which we knew in advance. We also see a date of birth given – as well as the names of the child’s sponsors – John Melody and Maria Melody. The names of sponsors can often yield names of relatives of neighbours.

Next, we can save the record to our rootsireland account (click on “add to my records”) if this looks like a likely contender. Also, it is important to check the underlying original record by clicking on the “View Microfilm of Parish Register” button. This button is provided at the bottom of most rootsireland transcriptions – never just rely on the transcription.

Note: If you do NOT see a “View Microfilm of Parish Register” button at the bottom of a transcription page then don’t presume that the original record is missing – carry out a manual search for the original record as illustrated in the next step.


Step 4: Look at the underlying original record for the transcription we found.

When we click on the “View Microfilm of Parish Register” above we are brought to the relevant page of the parish baptismal records at the National Library of Ireland. Next, we select “see the following”Filter Events/Dates” and enter the relevant information we have from the Rootsireland transcription shown above: “Baptisms”, “1855”, “April” and then click on “Apply”:

When we click “Apply”, we are brought to the correct page of the baptismal register for April, 1855 – we can then click on the “+” button below to enlarge the page for reading:

Click the “+” button and we can see the entry for the baptism of a Patrick Dolphin outlined in red below. Although the original record entry is in latin, we can see that the information provided is the same as that contained in the transcription:

So, is this the baptismal record for OUR Patrick Dolphin? Well, we don’t yet know for sure – but so far it fits the information we started with. So, we will keep this record on hand as we continue our search and look for more corroborating information that tells us this is the baptismal record for Michael Dolphin.


Step 5: Search for related records while on RootsIreland.

While we are still in RootsIreland, let’s search for any siblings of Patrick Dolphin who were born to Michael Dolphin and Margaret Butler in 1855. Remember, we are trying to establish if the Martin Butler from Ballydavid in the 1901 census was the brother of our Patrick.

To do this, we go back to the Galway East search page on Roots Ireland and search for all Dolphin children baptised to Michael Dolphin and Margaret Butler.

Click on search above and we are presented with six entries. However, as before, there are really three entries – each one duplicated. This looks promising as we can see that the Patrick Dolphin who was born to Michael and Margaret Dolphin in 1955 also had a brother called Martin. The date of baptism for this Martin is about four years off the age of the Martin Dolphin we saw in the 1901 census (he was noted as 40 in the census). We also see an older brother, James:

Here are the transcriptions of the baptismal records for the Martin Dolphin and James Dolphin shown above.

Martin Dolphin:

James Dolphin:

As before, I click on the “Add to my Records” button to save these useful records. Also, notice that a link to the underlying baptismal record for James Dolphin is not shown at the bottom of his transcription. This can be the case from time to time.

Next step? As James appears to be the eldest child of Michael Dolphin and Margaret Butler, let’s see if we can find a record for their marriage from before 1848. I will start with the search screen for east County Galway – but then search for ALL Dolphin marriages in that area. Why? This will show me the full range of years featuring all Dolphin marriages in the area. I can then drill in further to see if there is one with a Michael Dolphin:

Hit the “Search” button above and we see the following:

116 Dolphin marriage records are returned for Dolphins in east County Galway – starting in 1787. Let’s narrow things down next and search for marriages of Michael Dolphin to a Butler in the area:

Click on the “Search” button above and the following screen is returned – indicating that no marriage records were returned for a Martin Dolphin and a Butler spouse in east County Galway:

Let’s have a quick look at the record set we are searching through. We will search for all Dolphin marriages again in east County Galway – but this time JUST in Leitrim RC Parish:

We hit the “Search” button above to see the following results. This shows us that the first RC Church Marriage records available in Leitrim RC Parish in east County Galway were in 1884!

This result underlines a key point that I made previously – there is no point searching for a record that does not exist where you are looking for it! When carrying out Irish family history research, it is important to bounce back and forward between a search and checking on the actual records (and range of dates) available to that search. This is one of the key strengths of a service like Roots Ireland, it allows us to quickly carry out checks like the one I show below.

Before leaving this section, let’s have a quick look at just what is available through Roots Ireland for Leitrim RC Parish. Click on the “Online Sources” link I show below:

Which returns the following screen – showing which records are available by RC parish (this is the information you will also see in johngrenham.com):

Scroll down until you see “Leitrim” parish. You will see that it appears that marriage records from the period 1812-1917 SHOULD be available for searching, BUT that pesky asterix says at the bottom of the chart that “Some records for these parishes are missing” and that you may wish to “contact the centre” where they will try to assist you. A few comments on this:

  • There are gaps in the RootsIreland transcribed records. However, sometimes this is because they have yet to get around to transcribing the records. In this case it is worthwhile contacting the east Galway Genealogical society for clarification.
  • We can see that the tool we used in Johngrenham.com earlier gave us the impression that there were no gaps in the rootsireland record sets. This is because RootsIreland does not publicise the gaps.
  • Finally, I went back to the microfiched records at the National Library of Ireland and discovered that although some marriage records WERE available from 1846, it was a small number – and none including our Dolphin family:

Before we leave RootsIreland to summarise, I would like to share a number of other sample searches that I consider very useful (and quite unique among the Irish record search engines). I will not go through the full results of each of the following searches – but want to provide an overview of some interesting searches you may wish to carry out on RootsIreland.ie:


Sample Search 1: Looking for mention of the townland of Ballydavid in the east Galway Baptism record sets:

Hitting the “Search” button above returns the following. While 10 pages of records are returned, only three are church baptisms – the rest are Civil birth records. This gives you an idea of how seldomly townlands are mentioned in RC church baptism records:

If we carry out the same search for Marriage records – we can see that, again, few RC marriage records are returned – meaning that the townland was rarely mentioned in a RC marriage record:


Sample Search 2: Looking for mention of the townland of Ballydavid in the east Galway DEATH/BURIAL record sets:

RC Death/Burial records can be a bit of mixed bag. One search I like to carry out on Roots Ireland is one where I mention the townland:

I hit the “Search” button above to see the following. In this case there are rich results – many probably showing neighbours and relations of our Dolphin family of Ballydavid down through the decades:

In fact, I browsed the results and came across the following two burial/death records. These contain information from the Civil death records for Michael and Margaret Dolphin of Ballydavid. They died the same year – 1900 – a year before the 1901 census. The records establish that Martin Dolphin was Michael’s son – but appear to also confirm that Margaret Dolphin was his mother’s name. This would appear to get very close to confirming that Martin Dolphin and Patrick Dolphin were brothers as they shared parents with the same name:


Sample Search 3: Looking for mention of Dolphins as witnesses or sponsors in the RC Baptism and Marriage records:

As your research starts to deepen into a particular area – and you are trying to establish the connection between neighbours and people with the same surnames, there is a very useful search facility on the RootsIreland website that allows you to search for mention of witnesses (baptisms) and sponsors (marriages). In this case, we will search for mention of the surname Dolphin for baptisms and marriages in Leitrim RC parish, east County Galway.

First, we have baptisms:

Hit the “Search” button above and we see the following 82 records returned – all of which mention a Dolphin as Sponsor 1 in a baptism in Leitrim RC parish starting in 1815. In this case, I would normally browse the results slowly and taking notes. I would often come back to this search after completing land record searches (next module in this course) that will give me an idea of the names of the Dolphin neighbours in Ballydavid townland in the 1850s.

Here is a similar search for mention of Dolphins as witnesses in Leitrim RC Parish marriages – in this case it returned no records:

I hope you found this section on how to use RootsIreland.ie as a tool to accelerate your search of the Irish record sets useful. Let’s now summarise what we have discovered so far in this module.


Summary of Findings.

Let’s review our findings so far using the “Discovery Questions and Answers Worksheet”. New answers/notes shown below in red. :

Discovery QuestionAnswer/Notes
Where was Patrick Dolphin born in Galway?We found an RC baptismal record for a Patrick Dolphin born to Michael Dolphin and Margaret Butler in 1855 in Leitrim RC parish, Galway.

This Patrick also had 2 siblings recorded – James (b 1848) and Martin (b 1857).


We found no church marriage record for Martin Dolphin and Margaret Butler from sometime before 1848.

We found 2 death records for Michael Dolphin (d 1900) and Margaret Dolphin (d 1900) of Ballydavid. Deaths were reported by Martin Dolphin and Hanoria Dolphin of Ballydavid. This information starts to create a strong link between our Patrick Dolphin and Martin Dolphin as brothers and therefore that Patrick’s family lived in Ballydavid and that Patrick was most likely born there.
Is Ballydavid in County Galway?Yes. Ballydavid is in:
Civil Parish: Kilcooly
SRD: Loughrea
RD: Bullaun
DED:Kilmeen
Near Market Town: Loughrea
RC Church Parish: Leitrim and Kilcooly.

RC Dioceses: Clonfert.

Source: All sources shown in “Land Division Research Worksheet”
Was there a Dolphin family living there in 1855??
What was Patrick Dolphin’s first wife’s name?Looks like she was Mary Costillo. Father was Michael Costillo and she was born around 1857.

Source: Irish Civil Marriage Record.
Where was she from?Loughrea, County Galway.

Source: Irish Civil Marriage Record.
When and where did they marry?Married in the RC chapel of Loughrea, County Galway. January 18, 1881.

Source: Irish Civil Marriage Record.
Where and when was Michael Dolphin junior born?Michael Dolphin was born in Loughrea, County Galway on May 3rd, 1881. It looks as if he was born less than four months after his parents marriage.

Source: Irish Civil Birth Record.
When did Patrick’s first wife die?We searched the Civil Death records for the period 1881 to 1895 but did not discover any relevant records.
Other discoveries:Found Dolphin family living in Ballydavid in 1901 census – head of family (Martin Dolphin) appears to be the brother of our Patrick Dolphin as they were both living in Ballydavid when married and share the same fathers name.

See top row for further discoveries.
Case-Study Discovery Questions and Answers Worksheet.

Conclusion.

In this module we started searching the Irish RC Church Record sets for evidence of the origins of Patrick Dolphin and his family. We had a number of “discovery questions” in mind to help us focus.

We started by using Johngrenham.com to see if we were likely to find a baptismal record for Patrick Dolphin in Leitrim RC Parish, Galway, in 1855.

It verified that we would – so we then went to the RC church records at the National Library of Ireland to look at the source records available online on microfiche.

I chose to use a paid service called Rootsireland.ie to speed up our search of the RC church records. Using the service, we found a number of records related to Patrick Dolphin of Ballydavid and his family. We captured this information in the “Discovery Questions and Answers Worksheet” shown above.

We looked at some other useful search approaches using Rootsireland before summarising our findings.

The final step in our record search strategy is to search available Irish land records (Griffith’s Valuation of the mid 1800s and Tithe Applotment Books of the early 1800s) and see if we can uncover new information on the Dolphin family and correlate those findings with what we have discovered so far in this course. This will be covered in the next module.


Try for Yourself.

I suggest that you:

  • Replicate our RC church findings for Patrick Dolphin and his family. Ideally use the Rootsireland service to do so – although you may wish to uncover some of the records directly at the National Library of Ireland website (I have shared the record dates so you can browse directly to the record in question).
  • Alternatively, you may wish to use an ancestry service that you are already familiar with (e.g. Ancestry.com, Familysearch, findmypast etc) – and see how Rootsireland compares with those services. In any case, I do suggest that you give Rootsireland a go at least once.

What’s next?

In the next module we continue with our Irish record search strategy by examining relevant Irish Land record sets – correlating information we uncover with what we have already discovered in the Irish census, civil and church records for Patrick Dolphin and his family. That will be the final module in this course before summarising our findings in the conclusion module.


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When you are ready, click on the “Mark Complete” or “Next Lesson” button below to progress to the next course module.